Chris owns Chopper’s Ol’ School BBQ, a restaurant in Daleville, Alabama (I can vouch that it has awesome food). An Army veteran who served in multiple conflicts, Chris believes that our country needs to re-engage with its history and its role in the world.
How he uses his business to help others:
My restaurant offers a Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving, and we don’t charge anyone for it. It used to be just for military families, as my wife and I did it when I was in the service. What we realized is that the whole community needed it. We opened it up to everyone. Just the outpouring of additional support from members of the community that can afford it is great. They donate money, time, and food. To help other people in this community have a good Thanksgiving meal is one of the things I look forward to every year. It’s about a three-day process to cook everything. They do get smoked Turkey and hams, but it’s still a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
He thinks people in Daleville are equally generous:
Whether people have the money or not, people are ready to reach out and help the next person. It’s not a wealthy town by any stretch. But on the whole, within this community, they may not donate money, but there are so many people who will come out and help you do a service project.
People’s feelings toward soldiers have changed over time:
The time I served was a very different time than when my dad served. When he served, there was one conflict, and that was Vietnam. It was a terrible time in American history in terms of how American citizens treated service members.
When I first deployed, though, people didn’t hesitate to send us anything we needed. Someone sent one of our soldiers a computer so he could keep in touch with his family. Sometimes people send small things like here’s a Christmas card. When you’re overseas, it’s small things like that type of gesture that matter because you are so far separated.
I think there’s one thing that the civilian sector sometimes forgets. When you’re home for Christmas, or New Years Eve, that’s great. But thousands of families are separated. Soldiers are in the Persian Gulf or in Iraq, and sometimes the community forgets that. I don’t want to say they turn a blind eye. But in some ways, they feel “that was a decision they made.” And they’re right, I chose to serve. But that doesn’t make it any easier on a child or a wife when the parent/partner isn’t home.
As long as this conflict has gone on, I think awareness has faded unfortunately. Support isn’t as prevalent. We have a new generation of service members who are doing the same thing I did and aren’t receiving the same support.
His thoughts on America’s role in the world:
America was built on taking care of the small guy. That’s one of the Marines’ big things. Do I think we should police the world? No. Should we police things that can do damage to our country and those we support? If we didn’t, nothing would be safe. You’d never know if riding on the train in the United States whether something would happen. People are wanting to create bombs everywhere.
Our politicians could use a lesson from military leaders:
I think that it gets lost that our politicians who are supposed to be there for us are not there for us. They’re there for them. I was brought up in the military where leaders’ needs go to the wayside when compared to subordinates’ needs. You’ll notice all the senior leaders eat last at a field camp. You always take care of your soldiers before you take care of yourself.
Our schools are failing to make good citizens:
One of the thing that kind of irks me is that if someone else from another country wants to be a citizen, they have to take a test. And I guarantee you most of America couldn’t pass that test. We have failed ourselves because we don’t teach history and what it means to be a good person.
The part of American history we need to reckon with:
People need to be taught the Civil War the same way everywhere. Whether you’re in Texas or California, we need to have the same starting point. When people start talking about the Civil War, I ask one question to see whether they really know the history: What is the Mason-Dixon Line? Most people don’t know.
This week I was up in Tennessee on a veterans ride, and we visited the largest Confederate hospital. I found out they have two different tours. The regular one we did, and then another one that covers all the slave stuff. They talk about the Underground Railroad and what slaves did during these conflicts. That’s different from what I’ve seen, and no one got upset about it.
Slavery is a part of our history. I’m not proud of it, but it shouldn’t be buried. It needs to be presented. If we don’t, it’ll happen again.